Meet Our New Council

The final Council election results were made available at 11:38 am today on the Electoral Commission website HERE

Mayor: Ryan Palmer

Central Ward: Steve Tucker, Sarah Smith, Chris Doohan

East Ward: Glen Dunkley, Jamie Abbott, John Nell

West Ward: Giacomo Arnott, Ken Jordan, Paul Le-Mottee

TRRA Inc. Would like to congratulate all successful candidates on their election, and sincerely hopes that we can work constructively together with them in the new Council when they take up their roles.

February 2017 Newsletter – DA Watch

Our General Meeting, 7:00 pm Tuesday 21 Feb at Nelson Bay Bowling Club is shaping up to be one of the most important for Nelson Bay Residents for some time. Two major issues will be discussed at this meeting.

  1. The review of the Nelson Bay Town & Foreshore Strategy, including a proposal to uncap building heights in the CBD. Council Planners have agreed to attend the meeting to report on progress of the review and a discussion paper that will be released prior to the meeting. Please take this opportunity to come along for a briefing on this important issue and to get the answers to the questions that you have directly from the Senior PSC Planners.
  2. The Council Amalgamation Fiasco that is dominating the headlines surrounding the resignation of NSW Premier Baird and the election of his deputy Gladys Berejiklian to the job. At the time of writing this, (Sunday Feb 05 2017) we we are predicting that this matter will come to a head in the next few days. With a split in the Coalition on the issue, the Nationals leader calling for the halt of all amalgamations in the bush, and a couple of bye elections imminent in seats affected by mergers we think the new Premier will move quickly to clear the decks on this issue. We will know the outcome by the time of our meeting and the implications will be discussed at length. Our Council has spent over quarter of a million dollars of ratepayers money on this so far, and does not seem to have achieved much. The current situation of uncertainty cannot continue, ratepayers have been disenfranchised indefinitely and if a decision about an election or the appointment of an administrator is not made soon, the Electoral Commission has made it clear that the current impasse could continue until after the State Elections in 2019. This would be unacceptable.
  3. The DA watch below reflects the incredible amount of work being done by the TRRA Planning Committee  evaluating the large number of Development Applications that have come in over the holiday period. We are now including links to the Many TRRA submissions that have been produced by this Committee so that you can understand the issues raised and comment on them at our meetings or make your own submissions. Please feel free to write to the Committee or comment on our website. We are working on a project to post all submissions made by TRRA since 2008 on our website in a searchable index so that they are available to members, the public and the media for reference. So many of them resurface every few years………….. Have a look HERE at some of the earlier ones 2008 – 2011. Déjà vu indeed!

DA watch – February 2017

Since the last report in the  September 2016 DA watch and the November 2016 Newsletter, there have been several significant developments (sic) on the planning front.

Shoal Bay – You win some, you lose some! 

The redevelopment proposal for the Santa Catalina Motel at Shoal Bay has been approved, with Council dismissing objections from TRRA and neighbours about it exceeding height limits and changing the character of the eastern end of Shoal Bay Road. TRRA SubmissionCouncil Response.  In contrast, a controversial proposal for 10 units on two blocks on Leonard Avenue, also in Shoal Bay, has been withdrawn after objections from local residents and a critical submission from TRRA.  TRRA Submission

Examiner 01 Feb 2017: Leonard Street proposal prompts caution from Shoal Bay neighbours

Salamander Centre – Next stage firms up

Plan 155 Salamander Way – July 2016

Following the subdivision of the land and approval of infrastructure works now under construction Council applied for a further subdivision of the large lot north of McDonalds, and DAs have been lodged for a free-standing Aldi store on the western part of that site, TRRA Submission, and for a service station next to the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet on Bagnall’s Beach Road.  TRRA Submission.

Examiner 20 Jan 2017: ALDI Australia asks Port Stephens Council’s approval for Bagnall Beach Road store.

TRRA has made submissions on both DAs, repeating our earlier concerns about integration with the existing shopping centre, pedestrian access, shade, and landscaping.  While we all welcome new investment, and new services, we question the public benefit of simply moving an existing store, and of a second servo.  The overall development of Council’s land at the Salamander Centre remains, in our view, a disappointing hotch-potch of fragmented ‘boxes’ and a major missed opportunity

Nelson Bay Town Centre – New apartments?

Apart from the current review of the Nelson Bay Strategy, with the major issue of building heights, How High ? – Community faces critical decision on Nelson Bay building heights?, we await a Council decision soon on the proposed 33 metre – 8 storey Ascent Apartments at 11-13 Church St.  The developer has been actively marketing the units – presumably anticipating approval.  TRRA submitted that a decision on this proposal – which is more than double the current height limit for the site, is premature until the Strategy review was complete and a community consensus reached on building heights.  TRRA Submission

Examiner 11 Jan 2017: Donald Street and Church Street apartment sites have faced historical financial and planning challenges

To be consistent, we made the same submission on another proposal for an apartment building further north on Church St at the corner with Donald St (65-67 Donald), While this one is for only 19 metres (6 storeys), it still well exceeds the current 15 metre height limit and should, we feel, also be deferred until the Strategy review is complete. TRRA Submission

Examiner 11 Jan 2017: Plans progress for Church Street and Donald Street apartment buildings

Examiner 30 Jan 2017: Heights, parking under review

 

 Soldiers Point Marina – Another round!

The applicant has appealed the JRPP refusal of the marina expansion to the Land and Environment Court.  A mass of new documents were lodged in the last two months of 2016 which the Soldiers Point Community Group made a great job of analysing, with the assistance of the Environmental Defender’s Office.  TRRA supported the local community with a further submission, which Council requested to help them continue their opposition to the expansion, on a number of environmental, traffic and amenity grounds.  The next Court hearing is in February. Soldiers Point Marina

For more Info keep checking the TRRA Website and come along to our General Meeting 7:00 pm Nelson Bay Bowling Club, 21 February 2017.

ICAC, MaKenzie & McCloy – Should Property Developers Be Mayors too?

 

Reaction – Examiner 20 August 2014: Call For ICAC Probe Into PSC & Mayor Bruce MacKenzie

Update 20 August: Correction to Mayors assertion in the Examiner:

 “ICAC have more to do than come to Port Stephens,” he said. “The TRRA are only whingeing because the wrong people got elected. They have run candidates in the last three elections and haven’t succeeded.”

TRRA Inc. made public statements at the four Election Forums that we held in the lead up to the 2012 Council Elections (that all Candidates were invited to attend), that we had a motion on our books from a General meeting, that TRRA Inc. as an organization would not be supporting any particular Groups or Candidates in the election.

This was very important because we wanted to provide a neutral public forum for all candidates, incumbent and potential, to introduce themselves and allow public scrutiny of their past and potential future performance. A couple of the Mayors ‘Team to Achieve’ attended the first forum at Soldiers Point attended by 200 ratepayers. The Mayor never attended any.  If he had fronted up to his constituents he would have known what our policy was. TRRA Inc. has never run candidates in any elections, ever.  More HERE and HERE

Posted 18 August 2014

Disgraced former Lord Mayor Of Newcastle, Jeff McCloy and current (?) Mayor Of Port Stephens Bruce Mackenzie having a cozy chat at Stella Cafe, Newcastle West.  No Bentleys or Brown paper bags are visible in these photos but we would like to have been a fly on the wall…….. What was the topic of discussion? Tell us your best guess in ‘Comments’ at the Bottom of the page. Be kind now!

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(These pictures are from Mackenzie’s Face Book, and were probably taken during the Local Government Elections in 2012)

Newcastle Herald 13 Aug: “Man Up And Don’t Back Down”: Bruce Mackenzie Urges Jeff McCloy to Stand firm At ICAC

When this article appeared in the Herald the other day It seemed like our illustrious Mayor was having a bit of memory lapse.

‘I’ve been investigated by ICAC. Some bloke turned up and flashed his silver badge, then they searched everything I own and it made headlines for weeks. And then when they found nothing, all it got was 100 words on page 59 of the Newcastle Herald.”

Seeing that you bought this up Mr Mayor, TRRA Inc. thought that we should do a ‘fact check’ and see if this really was just a “pimple on a pumpkin.” We think you should “man up” and tell the truth Bruce!

The Pecuniary Interest & Disciplinary Tribunal was established by The Local Government Act 1993.  The Tribunal’s principal function is to determine allegations of contraventions of the act,which requires that the pecuniary interests of Councillors, Council delegates, senior staff etc. be placed on public record. Councillors and designated persons are required to submit written returns for that purpose every financial year, and they have until September to lodge them.

Councillors, staff and other designated persons are required to make a disclosure and refrain from taking part in decisions on Councillor matters in which they have a pecuniary interest. If a contravention is proved to the Tribunal, the Tribunal may, in the case of Councillors, Council committee members and Council advisers; counsel, reprimand, suspend or disqualify from civic office and, in the case of Council employees, recommend disciplinary action or dismissal.

The legislation requires complaints of contraventions to be dealt with by the Director-General of the Department. The Director-General has powers to investigate a complaint and the Tribunal’s functions are initiated by a Report presented to the Tribunal when the investigation is completed. After considering the Report, the Tribunal may decide to conduct a hearing into the complaint, or it may decide, for reasons to be stated in writing, not to conduct a hearing.

March 1995: Councillor  Mackenzie had the dubious honor of being the first Councillor to be investigated and served with a notice to attend a hearing under the Act. He  ignored notices sent by registered mail, but was eventually served in person and attended a three day hearing in Raymond Terrace on 27,28,29 March 1995.  He refused legal representation and represented himself at the hearing.

A complainant had Alleged a contravention of Division 9A (Section 46B) Local Government Act, 1919 – failure to lodge declaration of interests returns for 1991 and 1992. The Director-General investigated the complaint by interviewing Councillor Mackenzie and relevant staff members. The interviews were taped.  Councillor Mackenzie declared that he had lodged the returns but when it was established that there were no returns in the register he set about accusing staff members of loosing the paperwork and even accused the General Manager, (Shire Clerk then) with whom he said he had major disagreements, of deliberately destroying and disposing of the documents to get him into trouble.

Councillor Mackenzie made some very silly statements about his attitude to the Act, compulsory paperwork in general and the irritation he expressed that his financial affairs and property transactions had been scrutinized, investigated and put on public view over some years which provided both a motive and a personal inclination against lodging these returns.  He must have forgotten what he said in the interviews on tape because he put totally inconsistent arguments at the hearing, resulting in a scathing summation by the Tribunal, remarking that he did not regard him as a reliable witness. He had no problem with the reliability of the staff witnesses, except that of the Councillors secretary who had given a strident defense of her boss (after some prior collusion) on tape but then fell apart under oath in the witness box.The ultimate cost was her job and her reputation.

The Tribunal Ordered that Councilor Mackenzie be suspended from civic office for two months to July 22 1995 The Councillor appealed the order because it cut across the election process and if allowed to stand would have resulted in a suspension of over 4 Years to the next election Cycle. The suspension was reduced by 9 days to prevent this happening. Reasons given for the suspension were:

  • Councillor Mackenzie’s (lack of) knowledge and understanding at, and following the time of his election to Council of his legal obligations as a Councillor with respect to pecuniary interest returns.
  • His lack of concern for the obligation to lodge returns within the prescribed times.
  • His disregard for criticism of or the threat or risk of repercussions for his conduct in the performance of his duties.
  • His expressions at the hearing of apology and contrition for past failures to comply with the requirements of the legislation.
  • His expressions at the hearing of changes in his attitude to his obligations and his statements of intention to comply in the future.

November 1996:The Councillor then chalked up another first, He was hauled before the tribunal a second time 15 months later on 26 November 1996 on a recommendation from the ICAC .

Councillor Bruce Mackenzie, being a Councillor who had a pecuniary interest in matters with which the Council was concerned and being present at meetings of the Council at which the matters were being considered:

  • · failed to disclose the pecuniary interest to the meetings;
  • · took part in the consideration and discussion of the matters; and
  • · voted on questions relating to the matters

contrary to the provisions of section 451 of the Act.

This occurred over a number of different Council meetings between September 1993 and October 1994 at which he moved motions, rescission motions and amendments about his own development. The Councillor was represented by a lawyer this time and pleaded guilty to all charges. The Tribunal still took a dim view of this and suspended him from holding public office for a further two months from 26 November 1996 to 26 January 1997.

TRRA Inc. thinks that having this sort of stuff on your record is a bit more than a ‘pimple on a pumpkin.’ We wonder if he has ever really learned any lessons. His attitude to the law and accountability to constituents is is about the same as his mate McCloy’s. (He was prepared to go to the High Court rather than resign.) He clearly broke the current law, TRRA just does not think that developers and Public Office are a good mix, and that is being borne out in the evidence emerging every day from ICAC.  Lets hope that this is followed through with prosecutions, damaged reputations are not enough.  We also hope the electorate has learned their lessons about this unholy conflict of interest. All that crying about stagnation in Newcastle, well we put the pro development “adults” in charge and look what happened!

For those Tragics that want to salivate over the detail, the transcripts of the Hearings are available below by clicking on the links.  The first one went to 99 pages, with the Tribunal trying to grapple with an unrepresented renegade who tried to treat the hearing with contempt for a start, then turned the blame onto everybody else when he realized how much trouble he was really in. The second affair was a bit more civilized with legal representation and a guilty plea.  The first can be very entertaining in a Machiavellian way with plenty of ‘Bruceisims’ quoted, but it certainly shows the sort of stuff that is still going on in Local Government politics today. Enjoy, or be horrified the read.

LG Pecuniary Interest Tribunal – MacKenzie 1995

LG Pecuniary Interest Tribunal – MacKenzie – 1996

We were a bit reluctant to put this next link in because we think Bruce gets off on this stuff, and it appeals to the “Can Do” brigade that want some sort of a”Lovable Larrikin” running things, even if it is only for himself. But this does fill in some of the gaps and reveal a bit more about the controversial Mr Mackenzie. Reflect on it and let us know what you think in the comment section below. Question: Should Property Developers Hold Public Office?

Newcastle Herald December 14 2012: Ballsy Bruce; The Controversial Mayor Of Port Stephens

Newcastle Herald PSC Election Investigation

Newcastle Herald February 28 2014: EDITORIAL: Questions From An Election   (More Links below.)

Bruce Almighty 300 x 167The Newcastle Herald has had investigative reporters looking into the conduct of the last Port Stephens Election since the financial returns were made available from the N.S.W Electoral Funding Authority late November last year. Their revelations only confirm what TRRA suspected just prior to the election and wrote about subsequently on this site. HERE

These people deliberately avoided any fair scrutiny by their constituents, boycotting all the TRRA forums set up for that purpose.  If they had taken the opportunity provided to tell the people what they were doing in a transparent manner, they may have avoided the opprobrium that they are now going to face in the electorate.

The TRRA Executive were interviewed, provided material from our records to the reporters to assist their investigation and have made an extensive submission to the Electoral Authority on this issue.

We are very concerned at the ‘develop at any cost’ attitude of this Council and their record is there for all to see. Many of their development decisions have been  made against the recommendations of staff and statutory authorities. A lot of them were regurgitated from the previous Council’s rejections and given the go ahead. This was also obviously part of the Grand Strategy.These bad decisions will no doubt have legal ramifications and will probably come back to haunt ratepayers long into the future.

TRRA is not suggesting that this group has done anything illegal with their plan per se, although The EFA is investigating the possibility that the donations made to other candidates by the Mayor and others may be in breech of the Electoral Funding Act, because if the donors are connected in any way with the liquor industry or are designated as developers, they may be classified by the act as ‘Prohibited Donors’ under recent legislation bought in by the current government.

It is one thing to ‘game’ the rules for your own advantage, but it is another to game the ratepayers. The scale and expense incurred in this exercise and the politics behind it were not apparent to the average voter and the gloating afterward has made a lot of people feel that they have been duped.

Our biggest concern is, that now that the precedent has been set, it will become apparent to wealthy individuals that elections can be bought or manipulated by organised groups gaming the system and harvesting preferences from unwitting voters who are obliged to vote on a large complex ballot paper, but just want to get it over with by ticking a box.above the line.

There needs to be a change of rules or a massive public education campaign to prevent  further distortions like this occurring in the future.  The perpetrators of this underhand scheme have now been publicly exposed, and although they think they are very clever they should be seen for what they really are by the ratepayers of Port Stephens.

A word of warning to those who hold these people up as ‘go getters’ that ‘cut through’ and ‘get things done’.  Take a good look at ‘what’ is being done, and ‘who for’ and what corners are being cut to get it done.  That is what TRRA do best and we put it on this site for you to decide.

140301 Lewis Cartoon

 

 Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce Mackenzie rejects criticism of his “like-minded” Council. N H March 1st, 2014.

 

Here are the electronic links to all the stories in the Herald in the ‘Bruce Almighty’ series, from Friday 28 Feb 2014.  Some of the articles have interactive pictures at the top, and comments at the bottom, they are worth a click, we will continue to update  this aggregation as the story unfolds………. Great investigative reporting Donna, Michael & Greg!

Bruce MacKenzie’s 31 running mates

The secrets to Bruce MacKenzie’s political staying power 

OPINION:  Vote catching can be tough to grasp

Macca ‘Bloc’ Drives Key Port Decisions

Mayor MacKenzie proud of council’s financial health 

Residents raise heat on mayor MacKenzie

OPINION: Ambiguous alliance undermines Port council

LETTER: I didn’t vote for Macka, or did I?

LETTER: The power of a mayor’s vote

OPINION: Decision to shelve section 94 fees ‘curious’

LETTER: Rhetoric masks backlog

Voters will remember, mayor MacKenzie warned

LETTER: Election strategy unconscionable

Mandate lost in system rort

Defiant mayor has no election regret, poll

Option three: Candidates to run for Port Stephens Council.